Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET
Gale-force winds and rough seas were hampering an effort to evacuate nearly 500 passengers and crew from a ferry that caught fire off the Greek island of Corfu early this morning.
Ships and helicopters were trying to get everyone off of the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic as the vessel burned and began listing dangerously in a sign it was taking on water. The Greek coast guard reports that one person has died in a rescue effort and another injured. At least 160 people are reported to be safely aboard rescue boats, leaving hundreds still on the ship.
Greek, Italian and Albanian rescuers were reportedly taking part in the operation taking place about 40 miles from Corfu in the Strait of Otranto that separates Italy and Albania and the Adriatic and Ionian seas.
The BBC reports:
“Around 35 passengers were transferred to a nearby Greek ferry by lifeboat, Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said.
“‘This is a complicated rescue mission … The visibility is poor and the weather conditions are difficult, but we are confident because there are a good number of ships in the area,’ he said.”
The Associated Press, citing local authorities, says the fire broke out on the car deck of the ferry en route from the Greek port of Patras to Ancona in Italy with 423 passengers and 55 crew members aboard.